Iraqi leader calls for unity, political stability

By BUSHRA JUHI | January 1, 2012 | 12:36 PM EST

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki speaks to his supporters in Baghdad, Iraq. Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011. Iraq's prime minister says the end of the American military presence in Iraq is a new dawn for his country. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's prime minister called Sunday for unity and greater political stability to ensure the country's security after the end of the American military presence.

Speaking at a a televised celebration in Baghdad, Nouri al-Maliki warned Iraqis against "excessive joy" over the departure of American troops, saying the country's security situation remains perilous. The last U.S. combat soldiers exited on Dec. 18.

Al-Maliki called on all Iraqis to unite in the interest of the nation and stressed that Iraq needs stability if it hopes to remain secure and rebuild.

"We need political stability so we can address the world in one voice and not in ... conflicting voices," al-Maliki said.

Al-Maliki's comments came during a political crisis that started after his government issued an arrest warrant for Iraq's top Sunni politician, re-igniting fears that sectarian tensions could divide the country and even re-ignite a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites.

Al-Maliki is also trying to get rid of his deputy prime minister, another Sunni, leaving many Sunnis worried that they are being sidelined from power.

On Sunday evening, a Katyusha rocket exploded in Abu Dshir, a Shiite enclave in the mainly Sunni neighborhood of Dora in the southwest of Baghdad, killing one civilian and wounding four others, according to police and a hospital officials.

In the capital's southeast, a police car vehicle struck a roadside bomb, wounding seven, including three policemen, police and hospital officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information.